As one year ends, many people think about all they want to change in the next. Often at the top: spend less, save more. Is it a vow that’s often broken? Yes, and often in January. Why?
Ambition may be the root of a new savings habit failure. Declaring a goal for a year may be much more daunting than declaring a goal for a day. A new habit requires focus and a conscious choice, every day. That’s why specificity is better to help you accomplish that financial goal. For example, saying, “I will save $500 in three months for a plane ticket” is much better than, “I’ll save more for travel.” When you state what you’re saving for — vacation, college, a new house, retirement — it helps you refocus when you step off track.
To help achieve a goal, pick a behavior that connects with something you already do. Here are five ideas.
1. If you love technology…try an app
There are a range of budget-focused apps that help you save money, from those that categorize every dollar to monthly comparisons and cash-envelope-style tracking. Some money-saving apps will round every purchase to the nearest dollar and invest the difference. Many, though, help you see where you’re overspending and set specific savings goals. If you’re the competitive type, find an app that turns savings into a competition, whether it’s by increasing your savings amount by a dollar each week or investing a predetermined amount every time you check into the gym.
2. If you prefer to carry cash…stash away every $5 (or $10) bill
Each time you have one in your wallet, put it in an envelope or other designated spot. At the end of the month, make a cash deposit into a savings account designated for a specific purpose.
3. If you spend money because you see it…automate more savings
If your employer offers designated depositing, use it to set up a direct funnel into a savings account that’s earmarked for your goal. Or, you can probably set up a similar action with your bank — perhaps on each pay day. You may also consider additional small automatic transfers from your checking to savings each week or month.
4. If you’re the visual type…try a vision board
Post a picture of something you’re saving for, write down how much it costs and specify the time line. Break down your goal into monthly or daily savings. For example: If you want to go on a $5,000 vacation in two years, that’s $209 per month or $7 per day. Post the daily savings amount, and check it off after you’ve put it aside each day. If the daily amount is too high, you may need to adjust your goals and/or spending.
5. If you’re an impulse shopper…set some ground rules
Start with the 10-second rule: stop and think for 10 seconds to decide if you really need the purchase. Increase that time to 24 hours — think about it for an entire day before you buy. Then try not to buy something until after 30 days have passed. Another rule-setting method to try: the “spontaneous purchase match.” For everything unplanned you buy, you must put the equal amount into savings.
Regardless of how you save, commitment and consistency are most important. Learn more tips for starting today.